LONDON (AFP) - The oldest and youngest contenders ever nominated are in the running for this year's Booker fiction prize after judges on Tuesday (July 26) announced a longlist devoid of some star authors.
The list of 13 novels will be whittled down to a shortlist on Sept 6, before the prestigious British award is conferred on Oct 17, handing its winner a career-changing boost in sales and public profile.
The award ceremony in London coincides with the 88th birthday of novelist Alan Garner, who made his name with children's fantasy titles and folk retellings.
After six decades in print, the Englishman earns his first Booker nod this year for Treacle Walker.
Meanwhile at the age of 20, American author Leila Mottley has been longlisted for Nightcrawling.
Mottley is one of three debut novelists on the list, alongside Britain's Maddie Mortimer (Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies) and American writer Selby Wynn Schwartz (After Sappho).
At 116 pages, Irish author Claire Keegan's Small Things Like These is the shortest novel recognised in the Booker prize's 53-year history.
NoViolet Bulawayo, Karen Joy Fowler and Graeme Macrae Burnet are previously shortlisted authors who made the grade this year.
But some notable names were absent, including Jennifer Egan, Ian McEwan and Hanya Yanagihara, with the judges leaning particularly towards smaller, independent publishers.
"The list that we have selected offers story, fable and parable, fantasy, mystery, meditation and thriller," the Booker panel's chair, British cultural historian Neil MacGregor, said in a statement.
He said the longlist - drawn from an initial total of 169 novels submitted by publishers - includes discussion of contemporary themes such as the Covid-19 pandemic and questions of racial and gender injustice.
Another latter-day concern revolving around "post-truth" politics often crops up.
"The extent to which we can trust the word, spoken or written, is in many of these books the real subject under examination," Mr MacGregor said.
African authors have been ascendant in English-language fiction, scooping the Nobel, Booker and Goncourt prizes last year.
If the trend continues, that could favour Glory by Zimbabwe's Bulawayo on the Booker list for 2022, which features eight women and five men.
Shehan Karunatilaka from Sri Lanka is the only other longlisted author not from the British Isles or United States, for The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida.
The Booker is Britain's foremost literary award for novels written in English. Its previous recipients include Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.